It’s time for my traditional round-up post of the past year on Hannah’s Bookshelf, my weekly literature show on North Manchester FM. But this year has been far from traditional, and for more reasons than you might think.
In fact, this isn’t a full year post, as Hannah’s Bookshelf was off the air for over half of 2020. North Manchester FM began the year with a whole host of challenges – moving to a new studio, finding new funding, getting its transmitter moved to a new location to continue broadcasting – and just as it looked like we were getting everything resolved, a new challenge appeared: lockdown.
As a community radio station, North Manchester FM shows are presented by volunteers. And our new studio is in a community building, which was closed as part of the lockdown restrictions. My own (non-radio) also became increasingly busy as a result of the pandemic, meaning that I didn’t have much time to devote to volunteering for the station. And so… Hannah’s Bookshelf had to stay off the air for longer than I’d anticipated.
But all was not lost! The North Manchester FM station manager and technician managed, despite everything, to get the new studio set up and the transmitter moved. And, with the help of some new tech, to get presenters set up with ways of presenting shows remotely. I worked out a new ‘remote’ format for the show, as it wasn’t possible to do my longer interviews with new guests in the studio. By the summer, I was ready to bring Hannah’s Bookshelf back to the airwaves…
In the month leading up to the relaunch, I asked some old friends of the show to get in touch and share what they’d been up to during lockdown. We shared these recordings on social media, and they were broadcast across the station’s schedule. I called this little series Lockdown Tales.
It was lovely to hear from so many former guests on the show, who shared updates, poetry and even a couple of writing exercises and publishing opportunities. I had Lockdown Tales from Marc Nash, Antony Rowland, Alan McKean, Isabelle Kenyon, Sharena Lee Satti, David Hartley, George Melling, Sara Read, Ramsey Campbell, Amanda Steel, Andy N, and Nancy Schumann.
Back on the air! Hannah’s Bookshelf returned to North Manchester FM on the 8th August, with a slightly altered format to comply with social distancing guidelines. The show’s format was now News, Reviews and Short Interviews. I began each show with a round-up of literary news, upcoming events and new publications, and then shared my reviews of books and (online) theatre productions. My short interviews were catch-ups with former guests, with updates on what they’ve been up to since appearing on the show.
In August, I reviewed The Nature of the Beast by Carys Crossen, The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater, The Oak Papers by James Canton, and Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) edited by Catherine Lundoff. I also talked about various theatre and film productions, including JustOut Stays In productions (Hunting Swans, Laugh Track, A is for…, Accident of Birth, Total Slag and To Tell You the Truth), Homemakers at HOME (A Small Gathering, ABC (Anything But Covid) and Turkey Sausage Roll), and an online exhibition/film installation by HOME’s Future 20 Collective, Last Place on Earth.
I also reviewed more of the JustOut Stays In series of audio dramas (Bleach, Mrs O’Connor’s Flute, I am the most coldhearted son of a b*tch you will ever meet and Qualified), as well as five books: Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Elfrida Next Door by Susan Barrett, The Beauty Within Shadow by Henry Normal, In the Event by John Birtwhistle, and In SatNav We Trust by Jack Barrow.
September also saw the return of an annual fixture in the Hannah’s Bookshelf calendar (albeit in an altered COVID-restricted format): the (Not Quite) Live Poetry Special. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I had performances from twelve amazing poets on the 19th September: Ged Austin, Martin Grey, Pete Slater, Simon Corble, Rachel Halsall, Bethany Rivers, Thomas McColl, Helen Darby, Bridie Breen, Hallie Fletcher, Amanda Steel, and Andy N. You can see more about all of these poets in this blog post.
Into October with loads more reviews… of novels and novellas (The Flame and the Flood by Shona Kinsella, Divine Heretic by Jaime Lee Moyer, The Abstainer by Ian McGuire, Fitful Head by C.J. Harter, and Blindsided by Julian Edge), short story collections (The Third BHF Book of Horror Stories edited by Darrell Buxton, and The New Abject: Tales of Modern Unease edited by Ra Page and Sarah Eyre), more of the JustOut Stays In series (Mother’s Day and Monday at the Flat Iron) and Homemakers at HOME (A Series of Metaphors About a Plague), and an audio drama by The Alternative Stories and Fake Realities Podcast (Hare Spell).
October also saw two Special Editions of the show. On the 17th, I indulged in a bit of Literary Nostalgia and went Back to 1996. You can see the list of the books I talked about on the show in this blog post. And then, on the 31st, it was my 2020 Halloween Special. And this was an extra special show for me, as I was back presenting the show live from the North Manchester FM studio for the first (and only) time in 2020! (And, as is tradition, I was in fancy dress.)
The Hannah’s Bookshelf Halloween Special featured the winners and runners-up of this year’s 3 Minute Scares competition, with spooky flash fiction from Bridie Breen, Amanda Steel, Tony Harrison, Julian Edge, Sam Crosby, Rosie Cullen, Keri Moriarty, Benjamin Francis Cassidy, and Peter Barnes. This year’s stories were judged by the brilliant Simon Bestwick, and Rosie Cullen was crowned Greater Manchester’s Spookiest Wordsmith 2020.
I began November with one of my themed Special Editions. And, as seemed fitting for the beginning of November, the theme was Locked In. You can see the list of locked in and locked up books I chose for the show in this blog post. Later in the month, I also did one of my occasional Clips Shows, featuring a selection of books from my Special Editions in 2019.
Reviews in November included a poetry anthology (Mancunian Ways edited by Isabelle Kenyon), a short story collection (Unfinished Business: Tales of the Dark Fantastic by Catherine Lundoff), two novels (The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and The Gossips’ Choice by Sara Read), and more audio dramas (Broken Wings and Black Dark by JustOut Stays In, and User Not Found by Dante or Die).
Just one interview this month… with Martin Gittins, who has been a guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf before, but also on my still-on-hiatus local history show, A Helping of History. In addition to this, though, I introduced a new feature to the show: What Are You Reading? I asked writers to record book recommendations and mini-reviews based on what they’ve been reading recently. In the inaugural What Are You Reading?, I had reviews from my mum (because the whole bit was inspired by a conversation I had with her), Heather Burnside, and Sarra Culleno.
And so the final month of the (slightly abridged) year on Hannah’s Bookshelf.
In December, I reviewed a new poetry collection (Apocalypse: An Anthology edited by James Keery), a short film (good dog by tiata fahodzi), a series of short TV plays from the BBC (Unprecedented), and a new novel (The Gospel of Eve by Rachel Mann). I also welcomed Rose Condo back to the show for a short catch-up interview, and spoke to Jo Flynn from Manchester City of Literature.
December is always a game of two halves on Hannah’s Bookshelf, with the second half of the months given over to my Christmas Specials. First up, on the 19th, it was my Pre-Christmas Christmas Special, when I showcased the incredible festive flash fiction submitted for this year’s 3 Minute Santas. I had stories from Barry Faulkner, Rosie Cullen, Michael Forester, C.J. Harter, Sarah George, Julian Edge, Tony Harrison, Amanda Steel, Andy N, Allison Symes, Dorinda Ann MacDowell, Sam Crosby, Beverley Butcher, Rachel Halsall, and Martin Elder. And then on Boxing Day, it was my Christmas Special, when I talked about a selection of festive-themed fiction. In a slight twist on my usual format, all of the books featured in this year’s Christmas Special were published in 2020, and you can see which ones I talked about in this blog post.
Just one show left (sort of) this year… and I hope you’ll tune in!
Coming up at 2pm on Saturday 2nd January, I’m doing my end-of-year show. Tune in for my personal Hannah’s Bookshelf Highlights of the Year. As always, you can listen on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
Happy New Year!